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Flex Your Power Campaign Enters Fourth Year

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By Cheryl Brown

The summer is upon us and although the weather is cool now soon air conditioners, fans and coolers will be a necessity in the hot summer. The energy crisis is no longer on the front page, but conservation is still the watchword.

"Utility prices remain high due to contracts signed (two years ago). We have limited resources and we are using it up," said Walter "Wally" McGuire, President of McGuire. Inc, a San Francisco based public policy firm and President of the Environmental Policy Center, a leading non profit organization.

In an interview with Black Voice News, McGuire said that there is a major effort to get the word out to conserve and with summer on the horizon it is very important to use our resources wisely. "Unplug the refrigerators that are not in use, turn off the lights when you walk out of a room; we must change our behavior when it comes to energy use," he said.

McGuire said that the new administration may be successful in re-negotiating the high priced contracts and that Governor Schwarzenegger needs to encourage more power plants be built. "But I work on reducing demand. In 2001 we had a drought and we will have another drought. There are two sides of the issue, either to make power or to conserve it," said McGuire.

There is a bright side to energy usages. "Last year over 30% of people cut their use by 20%. They are using energy more wisely. A new refrigerator uses the same as a 75-watt bulb. A full dishwasher saves energy," he said.

McGuire spoke of the dangers of a "heat storm." "That is when it is hot for four straight days. We are not out of the woods," said McGuire about the coming summer.

It was McGuire who conceived the idea of the Flex Your Power campaign. The year was 2000, there were going to be serious shortages and analysts predicted that by 2001 California’s demand would outweigh the supply by some 5,000 megawatts. They were predicting as many as 34 days of blackouts and over $16 billion in economic losses. His Flex Your Power campaign targeted commercial, industrial, governmental, agricultural and residential uses.

His campaign accomplished the goal of getting California through the summer of 2001 without a single blackout, saving more than 14%. According to McGuire, in 2001 over 33% of the state's residents and 27% of businesses used at least 20% less electricity than in 2000. In the first six months of 2001 Californians saved $600 million in reduced energy bills. Flex Your Power has become a way of life.

They have promoted energy saving in new houses, actually saving builders many dollars and the focus is on citizens who do not have the new appliances, building materials and other saving devices.

Residents and businesses can save money and energy by purchasing energy saving light bulbs to replace the others and to replace appliances with new energy saving ones.

David Ford, Southern California Edison, business conservation department said there are free products. Businesses and churches can get all new energy saving lights free. The program is limited so his office must be contacted.

McGuire has broad experience; he planned and produced the 1984 (and 1996) Olympic Torch Relay. A successful plan that laid out a 33 state 8,000 mile route run for a three month period run entirely on foot and included 10,000 volunteers. Thirty million Americans viewed the relay. He also planned John Paul II's 1987 trip to Los Angeles and the Legacy Tour for the World Cup and the 20th Anniversary of Earth Day.

He also worked in the Carter administration, organizing overseas and domestic trips for the President, Vice President and the State Department. They included President Carter’s trips to Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Germany, France, Japan, Korea and the "Camp David Shuttle" to Israel. Prior to his conservation work he was an associate Dean at Hastings College of Law and served as Chief of Staff to the Lieutenant Governor in California.

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